Bristol Clinical Commissioning Group has approved plans to tender the city’s community health services and said it anticipates “significant” interest in the contract from providers across the country.

The services are currently provided by Bristol Community Health, a social enterprise created from the former provider arm of Bristol Primary Care Trust in 2011.

Last year the CCG voted to extend the social enterprise’s three year contract by two years to September 2016. However, a paper to the CCG’s 25 March governing body meeting warned it could not be extended further without risk of legal challenge.

It said there was an “expectation in the market” the contract, worth £37m a year, would be tendered when it came to an end.

“The recent South Gloucestershire community health services procurement has shown that there should be significant interest both locally and nationally on any potential procurement of Bristol community health services,” the paper said.

South Gloucestershire CCG, which covers the area directly to the north of Bristol, tendered its community services contract last year.

It received bids from Bristol Community Health, North Somerset Community Partnership and Bath based Sirona Care and Health, the successful bidder. All three organisations are social enterprises created from neighbouring PCT provider arms.

North Somerset CCG is planning to tender its contract as is Bath and North East Somerset CCG. The existence of so many potential providers in the local market has been a factor in both governing bodies’ decisions that they must hold a procurement.

Like BANES, Bristol is also considering letting the contract for up to seven years. The board paper said the contract would be worth £250m over that timescale.

NHS procurement guidance says commissioners are not obliged to tender services if they can demonstrate not doing so is in the best interests of patients. However, it is difficult for CCGs to make that argument when there are clearly alternative providers operating in the area.

The Bristol paper also warns of a risk of legal challenge if the CCG fails to properly consult the public on any changes introduced as a result of the procurement. It says a minimum of eight months should be allowed to develop new models of community health and consult widely on them.

The meeting also approved plans to re-commission community children’s services, including public health services, jointly with South Gloucestershire CCG, NHS England, and Bristol and South Gloucestershire councils. North Somerset CCG has also requested to join the commissioning partnership for all but the public health services. These services are currently provided by North Bristol Trust and Barnardo’s.